When I think of Prince, and especially during his reign during the mid-1980s, only one band comes to mind. That, of course, would be The Revolution, the outfit that accompanied his purpleness on three of Prince’s most influential albums. After disbanding in the late 1980s, most members of The Revolution went on to solo projects and fell out of the public eye.
Prior to Prince’s untimely death last year there had been rumblings of a reunion tour. So much, in fact, that Prince had asked his former bandmates not to tour as a band without his participation. Now, a little over a year since Prince’s death the band has gotten back together to tour in honor of their late frontman. Featuring the lineup that made Purple Rain such a great record, the band: Wendy Melvoin on guitar; Lisa Coleman on keys; Mark Brown (“Brown Mark”) on bass; Matt “Dr.” Fink on keys; Bobby Z behind the kit, were helped out by a guest vocalist who subbed for Prince when necessary. At other times Melvoin took lead vocals on songs that didn’t require a falsetto-laden male voice to give it a close-enough approximation on Prince’s signature tunes.
About 700 fans turned up for last Thursday’s show. Criminally, this reunion at the House of Blues was ignored by Clevelanders. Whether it was poorly-promoted or just plain overlooked in a huge slate of shows coming to the 216 this year, The Revolution was a show that any casual Prince fan needed to attend.
First and foremost, how did they sound? For a band that’s been out of the spotlight for almost thirty years the band sounded fantastic. This outfit sounded as tight as they did in 1984. Melvoin’s ascension to lead guitar was one of necessity; she filled in nicely for what would have been Prince’s moments to shine. Although comparing her to his immense talents may be a tad unfair (who can replace him, anyway?) she’s a very good guitar player and took the reigns when the moment deemed it so.
The band played only the tunes in which they were associated, so therefore the evening had no post-Revolution tunes such as “Diamonds and Pearls” or “Sexy M.F.” in its set list.
The evening started with “Computer Blue” and kept going for almost two hours, climaxing with the two-song encore of “I Would Die For You” and, fittingly, “Baby I’m a Star.”
One would think the highlight of the evening would be “Purple Rain” and, of course, it was a moving experience for many in attendance. It quickly became a sing-along, complete with purplish-blue glow sticks and cell phones waving in the air as most of the crowd became lost in their own personal memories of Prince.
Yet, the real surprise of the night was the upbeat funky energy of “Erotic City.” Mark Brown really kicked it up a notch during that number; the surge from that tune really amped up the faithfuls along the barrier in the pit.
About two-thirds of the way through the evening, Wendy and Lisa went acoustic as the rest of the band left the stage. Melvoin told an anecdote about her late friend and the duo quietly offered “Sometimes It Snows in April.” It was a beautiful song that acted as an anchor for the show. My only beef with the show, and this may sound out of place because it’s not a reflection of the performance, is the incessant need for concertgoers who stand in the back of the venue and talk, talk, talk. Please, for the love of god take your chatter outside into the lobby. Why would you spend a hundred bucks to go to a concert and then jaw through the entire show? It was really sad that such a beautiful tune was interrupted by a handful of women who don’t know how to behave in a public environment. Rant over.
Seeing a band like this can sometimes be a disappointment; the nostalgia factor works for both the audience and the band in situations such as these. We want to relive the memories of what made them so monumentally important in our pop cult lexicon, yet if they sound horrible or no longer have the chops to give us what we devoured thirty-plus years ago it may come off as cringeworthy.
Of course. The new Twin Peaks revival seems guilty of that, at least after last night’s premiere episode.
But The Revolution, firing on all eight, have no fears. They’ve still got it and in spades.
Unfortunately, it took a tragedy to get them back together.